A Meditation on NYC and Clutter

ON April 20, 2017

When living in NYC, my husband and I renovated our small Chelsea apartment. Due to costs, we had to live in the apartment while it was being torn apart and renovated. It was a mess: walls were torn down, cabinets ripped out, possessions in boxes, plaster dust was everywhere. It was hard to sleep, with the air quality so poor. I believe those few months were the most difficult of our relationship, as I felt so aggravated by the dirt and disarray, I had a very short fuse.

I recognized that disorder comes in shades of gray, not black and white. Having a more extreme taste of disorder had such a potent impact on my well-being, that I recognized that smaller amounts of disarray also impact me, but less so. Nonetheless, the more I can keep my living environment clean and clutter-free, the more ease I experience. Accordingly, I make efforts to keep things tidy, and enjoy the benefits of living in a space that feels welcoming and calming. – Domonick Wegesin [Catch Domonick’s weekly classes!

If you are seeking to mesh mindfulness and the act of de-cluttering, we found this sweet meditation practice from ZenHabits founder Leo Babauta to be the perfect fix:

It’s a form of zazen — which is sitting meditation, but at its core zazen is really a way to practice being mindful. It’s a way to prepare us for dealing mindfully with the rest of the things we do in life. And really, anything can be used as a way to practice mindfulness. I’ve often used running and walking, but also washing dishes and sweeping.

And decluttering is one of the best mindfulness practices, in my experience. Here’s how I do it:

  1. Pick one cluttered flat surface. It can be a tabletop, countertop, shelf, the top of a dresser, floor of a closet, floor of a room (just a section of that floor to start with). Don’t worry about all the rest of your cluttered spaces for now — just pick this one space. Small is good.
  2. Clear that surface. Take everything off and pile it on the floor or another table. Clean the surface while it’s clear — wipe it with a cloth, slowly and mindfully.
  3. Take one object from the pile. Forget about the entire pile — just look at that one object. Ask yourself why you have it. Is it for emotional reasons, or do you really use it? Is it for “just in case”? When was the last time you used it? If you don’t really need or use it, put it in a box for donation or trash it. If you do really use it, put it in another pile to be put back on your now-clean surface. If you’re on the fence and can’t bear to give something up, put it in a “maybe” box and put that box away for six months (mark the date on your calendar).
  4. Repeat, one object at a time. Practice doing this mindfully. Make a decision with each object — keep, donate, or maybe box. No waffling or putting off decisions. Deal with each object once, then move on.
  5. Put the objects back, and make a “home” for each one. Each object needs to have a spot that is its home, and you should always put those objects back in their homes. If you can’t find a home for an object, you don’t have space for it. Donate the items in the donation box, and put away the maybe box. Eventually you won’t need a maybe box as you get good at this.
  6. Learn to focus on one thing at a time, mindfully, and deal with each object once. This is a good practice for doing things in the rest of your life.

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